View official candidate video

Video Source: City of Surrey

Below read her answers to OUR questions

1. What is your key, or main, motivation to run for a school trustee position?

I want to be trustee because things really need to change. I am a social worker and family counsellor. Way too many kids are falling through the cracks, as well as teachers and support workers are also suffering. I’ve been a community organizer and activist for the last 30 years but I just felt I needed to take my work to a bigger platform where I can have have a bigger impact on kids and the teachers. I care about the schools, that is the base, that is the foundation, and if our kids are not getting the foundation, what are we doing? Our society is doomed.

2. How do you see the role of the school trustees in addressing the issues with space, overcrowded classrooms, and new school construction in this rapidly growing district?

Trustees are the ones who are managing the budgets, and looking at the needs of the schools and the students. I wanted to get involved and run because the [current] school board seems disengaged and uninvolved. The school board needs to look at developments coming up, and ensuring there are enough schools to provide for the kids. How many developments have been approved, and how will the needs of the kids provided for? What about basement suites where families are living, is there room for them in the schools?

3. Currently, Surrey is short of classroom teachers and teachers teaching on call. What ideas do you have for recruitment and retention?

Back home one of the things that would happen … was they would have housing for teachers. Was it subsidised or was it like a hostel etc., I’m not sure, but can we create something like that? People tell me their friend is a teacher but they moved away because it is to expensive, but that is my out-of-the box idea, provide housing for teachers.

Also, why are BC teachers the lowest paid in Canada? We need to recruit good, effective teachers who will stay, and “doing it because it makes a difference” only goes so far, we need to pay people properly, what they deserve, so I would advocate for that equity with other teachers, and look for that balance.

Teachers need more social support, and even for the older ones, how do we support them as well, it is even harder for them to ask for that support. Keeping up with curriculum change, etc., it is stressful.For me it is about talking to the affected people, I am big on collaboration, engagement, asking them “what would work for you.”

4. Surrey Schools are still short of Learning Support Teachers. How will you advocate fully implementing the language in the collective agreement so that Surrey students will have enough specialist teachers to meet their learning needs?

I would make sure that these issues are on the agenda. We need to talk about these issues and have concrete plans around them. We have to go after that, in terms of what is the plan.

5. In bargaining for a new contract, what actions will you take to ensure that BCPSEA and the Provincial government will reach a fairly negotiated contract with teachers?

I am hopeful that things are not as adversarial as they were for the last 16 years, hopefully the board’s task is a little easier than those days. I am not only there for the students, I am also there for the teachers, so we have to support them first and foremost.

I am for the workers rights and advocating for them, let’s come to the table and negotiate for fairness.

6. What is the best way for the Board to hear from and respond to concerns from parents, employees and other community members?

The board meetings need space for listening and responding. Parents and groups want to be heard. Not everything can be fixed, but they want to feel heard. They need to know trustees are listening and that they care.

It doesn’t have to only be at parent meetings, could be focus groups, drop-ins, meetings at schools, have a trustee meeting night, and have action plans attached to that.

Social media is big, there are limitations, I can’t over promise and under deliver, but I really believe in being more engaged.

7. How can the Board support the recommendations and calls to action of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission?

I think we have to engage more indigenous voices, not just say those words. I work with quite a few indigenous families, there are barriers for them to access the school system. It needs to be [improved] from their cultural point of view. We have to not be their voices, but give them the ability to speak up and be involved. [When it comes to] institutions, [there is a lot of ] the fear and apprehension. I have been consulting with a lot of agencies that are involved, FRAFCA, Metis family workers, for example report that people just react badly to the reception they received in schools.There needs to be a lot more education,[of service providers] and that has to be meaningful.

8. As school trustee, how will you use your role to support the sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity development of Surrey students?

I would support it by ensuring that the resources out there are being used. I would encourage that. We need some discussions and collaborations about how the teachers are handling it, how are biases and beliefs coming up. For example in the Muslim community [some] are saying they don’t want SOGI, I point out that this is also about discrimination, and how that is affecting children. This is not about converting anyone, I don’t think any books have [ever] converted anyone!

9. As school trustee how will you actively advocate for a better funded public education system?

I am hopeful for a good team to be elected this time, that we don’t have status quo.

Workers need to be supported, or the system will crumble. We need the funds and the resources, it is not OK for teachers to be spending out of their pockets, it is not acceptable. Also the PAC fundraising , not acceptable.

I have been attending the “wake up Surrey” events, and hear lots of groups asking for money, but then I see gala events of Indian stars being flown in, that is unacceptable. So there is money, just not directed to help people!

What do you see as the difference between a needs-based budget, and a balanced budget?

As school boards we have to try to ensure we have balanced budgets, or we can be fired, but we need to look at the needs as well, It is a tough task, but it is good to go in with fresh eyes.

10. How can trustees ensure that the leadership in Surrey schools reflects the diversity of Surrey’s communities?

People need to see there is someone there who understands their needs, I bring that lived experience as an immigrant. Also, in some ways we need to challenge old fashioned notions, for example ingrained sexism in any culture can be challenged. It is important to have the voices so we can challenge some of the notions. We can’t walk on eggshells worrying that we might offend some people. We need diversity in terms of loud voices, and not just tokenism. Re: principals and district staff. How are we recruiting from different cultures? Perhaps we can actually add extra points for skills they are bringing, we need to be more vocal and transparent about the value of language and cultural skills.